Friday, January 19, 2018
Do you have an invalid living with you? Or an elderly parent, a hyperactive child, too-busy husband or wife, unexpected guests? Face them toward a window where they can view bird feeders visited by cardinals, sparrows, juncos, mourning doves, chickadees, grosbeaks, nuthatches, titmice, pine siskin, starlings, blue jays, woodpeckers and hummingbirds. The entertainment is delightful. And, in your harried moments, you might face that window.
Bird feeders come in all shapes and sizes as do birds. There are plastic feeders in which to hold wild bird seed, sunflower seeds, thistle seeds, and hand-crafted, wooden feeders. A favorite feeder of mine is a wooden chickadee with three cut-out holes, to hold peanut butter and seeds pressed into it. What sheer poetry to see a chickadee perched on its wooden equal.
One particular feeder comes in the shape of an apple with a skewer, to hold suet. You can make a homemade suet container by discarding all bacon grease and grease products into the bottom half of a milk carton. Fill it with pan drippings until you have enough to insert into your suet feeder. Cut it to fit. Birds love it. Suet keeps them warm, and it costs nothing.
Each May, in Upstate New York, hummingbirds arrive at our feeders filled to the brim, with glistening red nectar. After a long journey, these tiny birds populate the northeast for a brief summer season. During this time, it is thrilling to observe the vibrant colors of the males, and the muted colors of the females, as they build their basket nests, and tend to their young. These birds are so small, it helps to have a pair of binoculars on hand. The males are territorial and chase predators three times their size, to protect their families. As predictable as they are to arrive in May, they generally leave mid-September.
Children delight in bird watching and it beats staring at the TV, Ipad or iPhone all the while. Grandma enjoys tea at a cozy table indoors where it is warm, with a vantage point to view the birds. John, in a wheelchair, is drawn to nature, observing the wildlife.
Wild ducks come to our feeders in early spring to eat the seeds that fall on the ground. Although not as welcome as the others, black bears awakening after a long, winter’s nap, visit our feeders and cause havoc.
Squirrels are pesky at times. One solution to this age-old problem is to set the feeder on a pole rather than attach it to a tree limb. Then grease the pole with Crisco. These gray critters cannot shimmy up a slippery pole; however, they are agile ‘out on a limb!’
All things considered, bird watching is therapeutic for everyone. It is a quiet, peaceful, harmonious way to enjoy nature.
Thursday, January 18, 2018
Thank you to all that entered this Poetry Contest.
First Place: Let's Applaud The Kingdoms by Salvatore Buttaci
Salvatore wins a $30.00 check and an autographed copy of I Passed This Way by Patricia Crandall.
Thank you to all who entered this contest. Although your poems did not win they are worthy choices and I hope you consider this Contest again next year. It will be announced in fb and on my blog.
Let me leave you with this Toast by Charles Chigna
Here's to creativity,
to paths outside our comfort zone
where each new block is not a rock,
but just a stepping stone.
Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Once upon a winter walk
down a foot worn path,
after a new fallen snow,
tree limbs were heavily laden
with stark white condensation
and footprints appeared before me.
It is a small white
I considered the path yet not trodden.
My winter boots make an imprint
over the delicate tracks.
All beauty and majesty
are in this white kingdom.
I witness the splendor of new fallen snow,
winter wonderland white.
I alone see and shall retain
this momentary vision
during a late afternoon walk.
The wind stirs a branch,
snowflake falls lightly upon snowflake.
Monday, November 27, 2017
I once read an article/editorial from Jeff Rivers, an expert in writing query letters in the late, great Dan Poynter’s newsletter. It was titled “What I Learned from Janet Evanovich: Write for your Audience.” It is hard to argue with experts like Jeff and Janet. But I do disagree-or at least mostly disagree.
Certainly, authors like Evanovich and James Patterson have done very well for themselves and for their readers by “Writing for Your Audience.” And maybe they followed their hearts and gathered their audience along the way. When that’s the case, it is a risk to take a path going in a different direction from the one an audience expects. John Grisham did that with A Painted House and his courtroom drama readers weren’t much taken with it.
I was, though. Very taken.
I became a stronger fan of his work. And it’s my theory that Painted House was the novel that had been lying inside his little writers’ soul all the time. That it brought him pleasure to write it. Maybe that it kept his writing passion alive. Maybe that brought more readers into his circle of avid fans.
So, maybe sticking to your audience’s tastes too long is also a risk. Or maybe starting out with a project designed only to please others and not your creative self would doom you to be a short-lived author. Maybe an author needs to occasionally open a new door and let the beam of passion light the work they are doing.
I do a bit of acting and learned from a dedicated actor who taught new actors that new actors give the director not what they think he or she wants, but to give of themselves—to give what they feel is best to give. But life has thrown me mixed messages. When I was a retailer, I certainly learned that one couldn’t “buy for oneself” when it came to selecting merchandise for my store. When I did, I very often brought whatever I brought home because my customers wouldn’t buy it. See my books on retailing at http://howtodoitfrugally.com.
But back to writing!
That same balanced note is a good one for writers to follow, too. They must keep their audience in mind. As an example, they must trust their audience to be readers. They, after all, have been reading their whole lives. So we authors don’t want to insult them. And certainly, authors should do the research necessary to avoid writing the same book someone else has written.
Still, there is another side of the coin and here it is:
When you write for yourself, your audience will follow. Do not mistake this for advice that writers go off willy-nilly with no training in craft, no awareness of rules (which we may then choose to break). But we must love what we do to be successful. Find your voice and your passion. Keep at it. Keep learning more about both writing and the publishing industry as a whole. Market your work. Do all that and an audience will find you. Your audience will find you.
You can do that once and you can do it all over again if you don’t mind the risk. Risk of getting less income than you’re used to getting with whatever you wrote when you garnered that first audience. Risk of teeing off some of your original readers who came to you with preconceived expectations.
I’m an eternal optimist. I believe we can balance the two philosophies. But I also see some real danger for the author (or beginning writer who still feels uncomfortable calling herself an “author”) who denies his or her dream and considers only what she figures someone else wants of him or hear or—worse—what she has been told will “sell.”.
~Carolyn Howard-Johnson is an award-winning novelist, poet, and writer of short stories. A many-genered author, if you will. She is also the author of the multi award-winning series of HowToDoItFrugally series of book for writers including The Frugal Editor (http://bit.ly/FrugaEditor),, How to Get Great Book Reviews Frugally and Ethically: The ins and outs of using free reviews to build and sustain a writing career (http://bit.ly/GreakBkReviews) and the much applauded The Frugal Book Promoter (http://bit.ly/FrugalBookPromo). The first two are in their second editions and the third was published in 2016. Learn more about all of her work at http://howtodoitfrugally.com. and come tweet with her @frugalbookpormo.
Monday, November 6, 2017
Many of the poets and authors I read in the small press should be on top of the pile rather than a number of the best-selling authors I have attempted to read, only to put them down and reach for a well-read classic. Two books I have recently read are “Moby Dick” by Herman Melville and “The Red Badge Of Courage” by Stephen Crane. These books are heavy reading; not for those who like to move along fast. However, once you have read them, you feel as though you have been on the high seas or survived a war.
Another writer I admire, who in my opinion is now classic, is Maria Von Trapp of Sound of Music fame. The books written by Maria are special for the reason each February, my family and I pack skis and winter gear and vacation at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont. This has been a tradition for twenty years. At first, we stayed at the original lodge until it was destroyed in a fire in 1980. The present Inn is very beautiful and luxurious, but it cannot compare to the homey atmosphere of the original lodge.
My favorite recollections of Maria are of her greeting guests in the dining room each evening, wearing a traditional Austrian dress and an endearing smile. At Mass at the quaint Blessed Sacrament Church in Stowe, I can still see her bustling down the aisle, attended by a companion or family member. I have been privileged to meet one of God’s chosen.
Maria was an iron-willed woman who never hesitated to say anything. She would not have survived in this country without her strong will. At her funeral in 1987, attended by approximately 200 friends and relatives, Monsignor Paul Taggart quoted a colleague as saying;
“God is going to be in for some surprises with Maria.”
The following books by Maria von Trapp, I warmly recommend;
A FAMILY ON WHEELS tells the story of the Trapp Family’s successful American and International concert tours which carried the entire family from South American cities to the hidden leper island of Molokai in Hawaii.
The Trapp family fled Austria to escape Hitler’s scourge, and arrived in America nearly penniless to begin a new life as professional musicians. In this book, Maria shares the family’s fascinating experiences of home life at picturesque Stowe, Vermont; and their six-year global tour to almost every city of any size in South America, New Zealand, Australia, America, and Europe. On their visit to Austria – after a twelve-year absence – they received a royal ovation which was for Maria an unforgettable moment of happiness and triumph.
MARIA, MY OWN STORY: reveals poignant scenes of childhood, convent life, marriage, and escape from Hitler’s Germany. Maria traces Baroness von Trapp’s adventure-filled and spiritually-overflowing life through the growth of her children, the Lodge at Stowe, Vermont and her dedication to God.
Maria von Trapp grew up in Austria and was left as an orphaned child at a very early age. She joined one of Austria’s strictest convents on the hopes of becoming a nun. As the ‘will of God’ she married Baron Georg von Trapp and became the second mother to his seven children.
Hitler struck Austria and Maria became the guiding force of the family.
Maria was not only a musician, mother, homemaker, lecturer, and world traveler; she is also an accomplished writer. The STORY OF THE TRAPP FAMILY SINGERS was made into the famous play and movie, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, the thrilling story of Maria.
Trapp Family books can be obtained from the Trapp Family Gift Shop located in the Austrian Tea Room, Stowe, Vermont 05672.
*This review was in part taken from book jackets.
God is in the red brick church
where a congregation
gathers each Sunday.
Respectful, serene faces
lift eyes to the Lord.
Hands pyramid in prayer.
One eye open...
the other closed,
a pious member
of St. John's
of a small wriggling form
at the door
ushering in sunlight.
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